Trader Joe’s ORGANIC SOY BEVERAGE (SOY MILK)


Trader Joe’s Unsweetened ORGANIC SOY BEVERAGE (aka Soy Milk). This is one of about 3 non-dairy milks (Soy, Oat, Almond) I buy at Trader Joe’s switching them as the mood strikes. I like this soy milk, its pretty good for the commerical kind one you can buy in a grocery store (My favorite soy milk is that I can get fresh in Chinatown especially from 46 Mott Street for one place (If you ever go there also try the soft tofu pudding with syrup) I would say this Trader Joe’s Soy Beverage is comparable to major brands. One thing I like about this one compared to some others is this one has only two ingredients in itsoybeans and water, whereas some other soy milks have extra ingredients like guar gum to give it a silky texture (ie, “SILK” Soy Milk). In our fridge, we usually have a container of this or TJ’s oat milk or almond milk, all of which are staples in our house. Trader Joe’s Certified Organic Soy Beverage sells for $1.99 for 1 quart (32 oz) and comes in a shelf stable Tetra pack

VEGAN

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA Kit (Brown Sugar Tapioca Pearls Drink)


If you are not familiar with BOBA TEA (aka bubble tea) it’s a popular (very TRENDY) drink that has very large pearls of Tapioca that sink to the bottom. The tapioca pearls have a very chewy texture that most people really enjoy. The pearls are so large that to suck them up it comes with a special ultra wide straw. These drinks are sold by specialty tea shops like “GONG CHA” that serve up a premium (and a bit pricey) Boba Tea Drink.

Trader Joe’s BOBA TEA kit is a (poor) approximation of what you might get from a specialty Boba Tea shop. I have had Boba Tea from quite a few different Tea shops and in short, Trader Joe’s Boba Tea Kit won’t put any of them out of business. The drink you get in a real Boba Tea shop is way better than this, however if you’ve never had it before this may give you an idea of what “boba tea” is. As my wife commented “this is a Trader Joe’s version”. She meant it as a knock as in “cheap knockoff of the real thing”. A specialty shop boba tea drink usually costs about $5-6 bucks each. This kit sells for $5.50 for 4 drinks. So yes a cheap knock off. Granted, its a high profit item (sugar, tea, tapioca)

Anyway if you can’t have it at one of these shops and just want to try boba tea in that case then his might be a good starting point. For one thing the tapioca pearls in Trader Joe’s are much smaller than the ones that the shops make which are huge and so chewy. This kit has 4 pouches of a concentrate with the pearls. You mix this package up with milk or tea (or combo of the two) plus a handful of ice to dilute its sweetness, and you need to add enough of these things in, otherwise it will be way too sweet. I put the defrosted pouch into a glass jar with a lid so I could really shake it up with the added ice and liquid. The kit even has 4 big straws. Not bad, but again really no comparison to a Boba Tea shop drink. I probably wouldn’t buy it again.

ILLY Forte Extra Bold Roast Ground Coffee


I was surprised the first time I saw the famous red ILLY logo staring at me from the coffees shelf at Trader Joe’s. Really? Trader Joe’s is now selling ILLY coffee?!? Yes it is and let’s hope it stays that way. ILLY is one of the most famous coffee brands worldwide and in Italy for 80 years on. Their red logo is instantly recognizable around the globe. The ILLY coffee company has a long history. They produce terrific coffee. I think one only finds this premium brand at some special stores and not at the supermarket. So yes I was happily surprised to find I can buy it and TJ’s now and for a decent price too ($9.99 for 8.8 oz). This is a very good coffee, a blend of 9 different Arabica origin beans in a medium dark roast in a medium fine grind. It should be good for most any coffee maker, in an espresso machine, for a Moka pot (which is what I have switched to), doing drip or pour over coffee and great if you like strong dark roasts. I use this for a Cafe Con Leche (with milk) done in a Moka pot and its perfect for that.

Here’s what ILLY says about this FORTE BLEND which was developed about 80 years ago.

https://www.illy.com/en-us/eshop/coffee/drip-coffee/ground-drip-forte-coffee-extra-bold-roast/8834ST

It’s vacuum sealed in this terrific looking metal container which even has a rubber gasket to keep air out once you open break the vacuum. Keep it in the fridge after opening and use within about two weeks when it’s at its freshest.

TJ’s Sierra Nevada WILD LITTLE THING BEER


Sierra Nevada WILD LITTLE THING ALE

Very drinkable!

The can says Wild Little Thing is a “slightly sour ale”. I think that is a brewing method more than a description of it’s taste. I didn’t find it terribly sour at all but perfectly balanced. I was a little surprised I liked it so much as I found it way better than the package design (& crazy font) lead me to believe. Tasting it, I thought this is really good, even delicious, a bit fruity, neither too bitter nor too sweet, but with a nice balanced taste. It has a lovely rosé color, with a small pale head and tiny bubbles. A highly refreshing and “easy drinking” ale. It was delicious with food, it went very well with our tacos that night.

I would buy this again no question.

https://sierranevada.com/beer/wild-little-thing/

“This slightly sour Wild Little Thing has just the right smack of tartness for serious refreshment, while guava, hibiscus and strawberry lend fruity-sweet depth and a bright pop of color.”

Sierra nevada’s description

Trader Joe’s “JUST BEETS” 100% beet juice


Trader Joe’s JUST BEETS 100% juice plus a splash of lemon

“Naturally sweetened with a subtle earthiness” As the name says this is “100% pure beet juice pressed from whole beets (with just a hint of lemon from concentrate)”. Trader Joe’s carries this in the refrigerated drinks section, so it’s fresh. Kind of what you might get if you went into one of those fancy juice bars except this was not made right in front of you by a cool tattooed up Juice Guy with a goatee throwing beets into a juicer who charges you seven bucks plus a tip. Still I think this tastes fresh enough so that if you shook it up hard, put it in a carryout cup with a cover, told me you just bought this from a cool tattooed juice guy I would probably have no reason to think otherwise 😉 Though it has a pretty long “good by” date, I think it tastes best within 3-5 days after you open the bottle so I drink it within a few days. Personally I would not down the whole bottle in one sitting. I have a nice big shot glass of this every day (3-4 oz?). The label states 80 calories in 8 oz. You get 20 oz for $3.99 which is probably less than that fancy juice bar would charge.

I love beets. I like this juice. It’s healthy and good for you, and drinking this every day can help lower your blood pressure! Just remember later in the bathroom to relax and think “Oh yeah I had those beets today.” You know what I mean, you are OK and not peeing blood. Beets do that to you.

RAVE

Update (Summer 2022) Unfortunately this seems to have been discontinued. If one reason you bought the beet juice was to control blood pressure as I di, here’s a useful tip for a substitute : drink 3 cups of HIBISCUS TEA daily. I do. I like this brand I get on Amazon https://amzn.to/3CLECHc

Hibiscus is known to be safe, natural product that reduces blood pressure. Google it.

Trader Joe’s WINTER WAKE UP TEA


So let me just start off with the comment that I really like this tea but frankly found the name a wee bit misleading. When I saw the words “Wake Up Tea”, I just assumed this will make a cup of strong, dark, kick-ass, rocket fuel (English/Irish) tea… A dark cuppa that really wakes you up in the morning. But when I brewed up a cup as you can see in the picture its not a very dark super strong tea. However when I tasted it I thought, oh this quite good! So I really like this tea but my take is kind of Trader Joe’s should have come up with a different name minus “wake up”. “Winter Wake Up Tea” is probably not something I would brew to wake me up in the morning. But other than that comment, Trader Joe’s has come up with an EXCELLENT TEA BLEND with great spice flavors that would satisfy me at any time of day, and makes me feel all nice and warm and cozy!

TJ’s Winter Wake Up Tea is a wonderfully balanced tasty spiced tea, a blend of black tea, cinnamon, orange peel, ginger and cloves. If it was called something a bit different without “wake up” in the name, I would have simply started the review with “A most wonderful spiced tea that will make you feel warm and toasty on a cold snowy winter’s eve, and will warm your heart and soul! Drink it in front of the fireplace and just relax….” Personally Mr. Joe, I would have named it something like, say… WINTER COZY TEA. or WINTER SPICE BLEND TEA* or something like that.

Brew this up and you get a very nice spiced tea that reminds me slightly of CONSTANT COMMENT tea – a famous spiced tea blend created back in 1945. My parents always had it in our cupboard, especially making an appearance when “company” came over, as it was kind of special and would get a “yum… whats this tea?” comment from our guests. Ah the good old days! This TJ tea make a lighter cup than Constant Comment, with less black tea prominent in the blend but probably more spices such as cinnamon, ginger, plus clove and orange peel. It even is has the slightest bit of sweetness naturally as an under-note from a bit of licorice, which possesses natural sweetness.

So will this wake you up like the Irish Breakfast tea which actually is a “wake up tea”? Myself, to wake up I need a strong cuppa like TJ’s excellent Irish Breakfast Tea, or a typical English tea like Typhoo Tea or the like. But still enjoy this Winter Tea for what it is – a quite lovely spiced tea full of flavor.

Aha, methinks, I’ve a great idea! What if I combined the two teas together?! I brewed both teas up together, and very much liked the resulting concoction. If you do you want something a bit darker and stronger but with lots of nice spice flavors, just take 2 cups of water, bring to a boil in a pot, and toss in a bag of this Winter Tea plus a bag of Irish Breakfast Tea. Let it brew for at least 5 minutes. The result is nice mix-up of both, a strong “cuppa” plus lots of warm spices and flavor, not terribly unlike Constant Comment, and which actually now is a Wake Up Tea that will perk you up on a cold winter’s morn.

*So Mr Trader Joe, should you borrow my ideas and rename this product “COZY WINTER TEA” you better at least send me a case of this stuff!

 

 

 

PACIFIC ORGANIC ALMOND MILK


I’ve tried a number of the “milk alternative” beverages at Trader Joe’s. Most of them are pretty good. The one I keep going back to is PACIFIC FOODS ORGANIC ALMOND MILK (“Original”). I think the reason is I find its taste is a tiny bit better due to the fact the almonds its made from are roasted.

The Pacific Foods website says: “We take organic almonds and add a gentle roast to emphasize the robust, authentic flavors of the almonds. The result is our smooth, signature taste that’s a pleasure to drink by the glass and blends perfectly in your dairy-free recipes.”

We all know roasting nuts brings out their flavor, right? This subtle but noticeable taste in this almond beverage makes a small but slightly significant better taste giving this almond beverage a little depth of flavor over the other almond milks TJ carries.

I mostly use Almond Milk in the morning on my cereal. But this is also good to drink on its own (well chilled), mixed with yogurt, which is usually the things I put on my breakfast cereal with some fruit. I use this almond milk to make Smoothies; and its great for those. I actually do drink regular (cow) milk too though. I use regular whole milk in my daily cappuccino. Almond or Soy milk adds a taste that I don’t like in coffee drinks, for my taste or a cup of English tea.

The Pacific Almond Beverage costs a bit than the other nut milk beverages. This sells for $2.19 (1 Qt) compared to for example TJ’s Almond Milk ($1.89). Still this is worth trying and comparing to see what you like best. This version (original) does have a little organic cane sugar in it, but its hardly “sweet” and I think that also makes it tastier. Cow’s milk has naturally produced sugars too you know, just check the label.

The dairy milk industry by the way has been going crazy for the last few years about the word “milk” being used for anything other than the liquid produced by lactating cows. Hence the wording: “plant-based beverage” on the this box! The FDA thinks people get confused seeing the word milk used for anything other than cow milk. I do feel bad for dairy farmer’s, who have seen milk consumption decline way down from say, when I was a kid.

 

NO RECIPE RECIPE: BREAKFAST SOAKED OATS aka OVERNIGHT OATS (No Cooking)

OVER NIGHT OATS ARE A YUMMY AND HEALTHY BREAKFAST!

The night before, put up some rolled oats (or quick oats) in a bowl or container. Pour an equal amount of almond milk over them to cover by a bit and stir to mix. A spoonful of chia seeds are nice too! Let this oatey mix sit and soften up overnight in the fridge. The raw oats will soften up without cooking and become yummy. If you use Quick Oats this can be ready to eat in 15 minutes or so. Dried fruits thrown in will soften and be lovely too (dried cranberries, dates, raisins….) In the morning the mixture will be ready to eat. Top your overnight oaks with your favorite fruits (bananas, berries…) yogurt or kefir and maybe more almond milk if too thick. Some crunchy topping? Granola or a cereal. Nuts. Sweeten with honey or some raw sugar if desired. 

OVERNIGHT OATS WITH NICE PHOTOS

Trader Joe’s KEFIR


RAVE

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TRADER JOE’S KEFIR CULTURED MILK DRINK

Kefir is cultured, fermented milk. Think “drinkable yogurt”. Kefir is quite the rage in the natural health community and in social media. Why? Well, Kefir is extremely high in probiotics. Even more than yogurt. So it is considered beneficial for health and digestion and especially for Gut Health, a huge new topic of interest in medical research currently. The origins of Kefir are probably the mountainous regions dividing Europe and Asia and it has been around a LONG time (thousands of years)!

Kefir is similar to yogurt however it’s unique and different. For one thing it has more probiotics than yogurt and more varieties. Look at the label listing Live Active Cultures. You may notice there are a LOT more kinds than are typically in yogurt, which usually lists 3-5 kinds of bacteria. “12 active cultures“. I recognized about the first three Lactobacillus kinds (L. = Lactobacillus). I don’t recognize many of the others off the top of my head. So there are more kinds of bacteria in kefir than in yogurt, so much more diverse probiotics going into your gut. Kefir is also supposed to be better tolerated by those who are lactose intolerant ? I can’t speak to this if true or not? Anyone?

kefir3

I wanted to try TJ’s Kefir for a while so bought the Mango flavor to test out. I found the TJ’s Whole Milk KEFIR to be really good and really tasty. In fact, Kefir is yummy. I understand that plain kefir is really sour. The Mango version is sweetened with natural cane sugar. Still I found the mango not at all overly sweet, you still get some tangy sourness. They also carry a Strawberry* flavor kefir which I would buy next time as I would like to try that flavor also. (UPDATE: I tried the Strawberry and it was also good). I haven’t tried the Plain yet, it might be too tart for me. If you didn’t grow up drinking plain Kefir, I am told it might take you some getting used to as being quite tart? The Mango whole milk kefir drink was thick, almost a smoothie (update: it’s not as thick as it used to be; they have changed it !)

Kefir is great to make Smoothies. My TJ’s even has a “SMOOTHIES SECTION” with all kinds of ingredients gathered in the same area.

BASIC KEFIR SMOOTHIE RECIPE: In a blender, try 1 cup Kefir, 1 cup of ice, one banana (it could be frozen), a 1/2 cup of some fresh or frozen berries, a tablespoon of chia seeds and/or flax seeds and a maybe a drizzle of honey. Blend. Make 2 1/2 cups plus.

I’ve been using the kefir also pouring some over my morning bowl of oatmeal or cereal. Also to make OVERNIGHT OATS. It’s great on fruit. Even kids might like the Mango and Strawberry kefir. So kefir is both super healthy and tasty. If you like yogurt, this is something well worth trying. There is also a Plain Kefir (unsweetened) if you are inclined to try it “au natural” (very tart I hear). TJ’s even sells one made from Goat’s Milk (!) The Mango one is rich as it’s made with whole milk. The regular and fruit Kefir’s come in a 32 oz bottle selling for $2.99.

UPDATE: I now tried the Strawberry* Kefir and realized it is LOW FAT. The MANGO version is WHOLE MILK. Whole milk is 4% and the low fat milk is 1-2%. So go for the strawberry kefir if you want lower fat/calories.

A little warning: If you never tried it, perhaps I would not drink a full glass the first time. Try a few ounces for a few days at most. A little will go a long way till your body gets used to all that extra probiotic bacteria, lest it work its magic too well maybe, if you know what I mean !

Nutrition (per 1 cup): (MANGO Whole Milk Kefir) = 180 Cal. & 4.5 g of sat. fat VS 160 Cal. and 1.5 g sat. fat for STRAWBERRY Low Fat Kefir which interestingly also seems to have 1 more gram of Protein per cup serving? Plain Kefir= 100 cals (1 cup) So if you want to save a few calories get the STRAWBERRY Low Fat Kefir or PLAIN Low Fat Kefir (though the Mango is very tasty!) Honestly, I can’t see anyone drinking it a whole cup at a time straight though of any variety straight, this is a small glass thing, or mix with some ice and a dash of water….

Is KEFIR worth buying? Definitely! Your personal biome may thank you.

(update fall 2019: many, many bottles later! The whole milk mango kefir is definitely not as thick as when I first reviewed it here. Other readers have stated the same thing. TJ’s changed it so it is thinner now, as it used to be really, really thick. My gut feeling (ha!) tells me people may have complained the kefir was too thick so they changed it and made it a bit thinner. I have found product changes at TJ’s again and again. I wonder do they get feedback and make changes based on customer feedback?

THANK YOU TO THE READER WHO LET US KNOW : LIFEWAY IS THE MAKER OF THE TRADER JOE’S KEFIR (Lifeway is sold at health stores for example) I have no doubt this is cheaper than buying it elsewhere.

Has anyone tried Plain Kefir version? Is it that tart? Please tell us below in Comments. And if you are so inclined to test the Goat Milk Kefir please report on it. I am curious about that one, too. I love goat milk in cheese but never drank it.

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Mango Kefir

lofatkefir
Strawberrry Kefir

Trader Joe’s IRISH BREAKFAST TEA


new irish tea
FALL 2020 update – Note that the Irish Tea package has changed. This is what it now looks like (blue sky, green grass, bicycle drawing). They also changed from foil packs inside (lovely) to plastic wrapped packs (meh!). Most people, as well as yours truly preferred the foil packs for freshness. Oh well. Some report the tea’s blend changed. At least still 8 oz with 80 teabags. For comparison Whole Foods sells their Black Tea in a package of which is 70 teabags with a listed weight of 4.9 oz. Wow, thats a lot less tea for your money! So at least TJ has kept the amount of tea the same, and gives you more tea, which of course makes for a stronger cup.

 

 

If you enjoy a nice “cuppa” like I do, you’ll likely enjoy TJ’s IRISH BREAKFAST TEA.

Trader Joe’s ORIGINAL IRISH BREAKFAST TEA BAGS is a newer incarnation of a previous version of Irish Tea they carried, then “revamped” a few years back. That previous Irish Tea packaging looked a bit different and tasted different too, according to the internet’s tea aficianados. This new version is an improved, better version, also according to them. Its has more flavor and is a stronger blend, which is what you definitely want in a cup of “Irish Tea” as Irish tea should be strong enough to stand up to milk and sugar, the way most people probably drink it there, as well as in the UK. And the way I takes me tea, as well!

TJ’s gave the box a new design too,  and the tea which was in a square bag, now comes in a round bag (tables with no string). Inside the box are 2 foil-wrapped packages with 40 tea bags each, which is great way to sell tea as the foil wrapper keeps 1/2 the tea totally fresh and airtight until you need to open the second package. When you rip open the foil pack you will smell the tea easily, its got a very nice earthy (boggy?) deep tea aroma. To me this is what good tea should smell like. I won’t be a snob and say no one should use a tea bag, let’s face it they are mighty convienient (yes on occasion, I will make a pot with loose tea).

According to the info on the box, TJ’s IRISH BREAKFAST tea comes from 5 countries: India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Malawi, and Kenya. A box is 80 teabags has a Net Wt. of 8 ounces which basically means each tea bag contains a nice decent amount of tea, enough to make a strong “cuppa”. When you see cheap tea that has 100 tea bags and says “6 oz” you already know that means there’s simply not enough tea in each bag to make a strong cup of tea. Lipton comes as 8 oz of tea in 100 bags, so obviously each has less tea and won’t brew up as strong as this stuff. This is a black tea and properly steeped (4-5 minutes) the tea gives you a nice very strong, dark “cuppa” with a deep reddish color. It is strong enough to stand up to milk and sugar, or not, as you like! The box with 80 tea bags sells for $2.99 (or $6/lb) which is a good deal even compared to TJ’s ENGLISH BREAKFAST TEA (which comes in a box of 48 bags for $2.99)

As the box says, “The Irish love their tea”. Some of us Yanks do too and we can easily enjoy this brand of tea easily and affordably from TJ’s to make our daily “cuppa”.

RAVE